Russia is working on a form of technology that would enable it to target satellites in space, says a source familiar with the program.
A Russian deputy defense minister, General Valentin Popovkin, said while Russia opposes a space arms race, it would not let steps by other countries toward space militarization go unanswered, Russian news agencies reported.
“We can’t sit back and quietly watch others doing that; such work is being conducted in Russia,” said Gen. Popovkin.
Popovkin, who previously served as the chief of Russian military Space Forces, claimed that Russian technicians had already developed some “basic, key elements” of such weapons but did not elaborate on details.
His remarks came in response to a question about US and Chinese tests of anti-satellite weapons.
In February 2008, the US struck a dying satellite with missiles launched from a Navy cruiser. Earlier in 2007, a Chinese missile destroyed one of its own aging satellites.
Russia and the United States are the only two nations to have successfully performed anti-satellite weapons tests.
The tests have sparked international criticism with many countries arguing that such tests would lead to space weaponization and an arms race.
Despite widespread condemnation, the US has long resisted a global treaty banning such tests, saying it needs “freedom of action in space”.
Adding to the concerns in Moscow was the last month collision of US and Russian satellites.
Former head of Russia’s military space intelligence, major general Leonid Shershner has told the daily Moskovski Komsomolez that the US Iridium 33 satellite involved in the collision was part of a US military research project launched in 2007.
The dual-purpose project — Orbital Express — mentioned by the former space official aims to create a new technology that supports a broad range of future US national security and commercial space programs.
The project, Shershner said, was expected to allow the US to intercept and manipulate “hostile satellites” and destroy them from an earth-bound command center.
According to the general, the collision that occurred on Feb. 10 could have been easily avoided since the Iridium 33 was equipped with a navigation system able to detect any targets that move toward it, send information to earth and allow the ground center to change its orbit.
Unfortunately, such preventive measures did not occur, Shershner added.
The Russian ex-official insisted that the collision is proof that the incident was manipulated by officials in Washington.